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Although the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) is set to deliver an environmental impact assessment (EIA) as early as this week, some members of the environmental community remain skeptical, and say it's a case of too little, too late.
According to Sam Duncombe, the director of reEarth (http://reearth.org), a full EIA should have been completed before seismic testing began in 2010.
Now, she said, damage may have already been done.
"As far as I know they are not obligated by law, but any person in oil and gas would know seismic testing can cause a lot of problems for ocean life," Duncombe said, who founded the Bahamian watch group in 1990.
"The reality is, if they were really concerned about the Bahamian environment, they would have done an EIA before they did any testing."
Seismic testing, intended to discover whether oil lurks under the sea floor, first began in 2010 by BPC. Three dimensional seismic testing, which sends signals and waves capable of providing a higher level of detail, started this year.
Roberta Quant, an environmental scientist working on behalf of BPC, holds two degrees in Ocean Engineering and another in Environmental Engineering.
She said the company is following international guidelines. "We are not required by law to do a study before or during seismic testing," Quant added. "We took precautions that followed best practices around the world."
Minister of the Environment, Earl Deveaux, agrees that seismic testing will not have an effect on ocean life.
"The fish didn't even know it was taking place," he said. "The argument [that] it has been destructive is faulty."
In September, BPC will release their findings from an EIA done in conjunction with Acorn International, a company that delivers environmental and sustainability consulting for international industries and investors.
The government has hired third party, Black & Veatch Corporation, to review BPC's results and form their own conclusions.
Paul Gucwa, the chief operating officer for BPC, pointed out Acorn International has performed EIAs for major oil and gas companies worldwide. The EIA due next month, he said, will go a long way to determining whether drilling poses an environmental risk. "We are mindful it needs to be done and we're proceeding," Gucwa said.
He added that the University of Miami is also involved in determining what risks or problems could result from a possible oil spill.
This month, Gucwa said Earl Deveaux, Minister of the Environment, was "absolutely right" about his concerns regarding drilling.
The statement followed the resignation of Paul Crevello, the former CEO of BPC. The oil company is expected to announce their new CEO in the next few weeks. BPC has five existing oil exploration licenses and these agreements expire in April 2012.
But despite the EIA and government involvement, Duncombe said the damage possibly caused by seismic testing has not been addressed.
The noise level caused by these tests, she contends, cause significant disruption to various forms of marine life, including whales, dolphins and tuna. "When they shoot that noise down to the seabed, they are creating waves and signals that can kill whales and dolphins," she said. "It rips their ear drums and once that happens, they can stray and die."
Duncombe offered a variety of other problems associated with seismic tests. It could affect fishing by disrupting the pattern and behavior of fish, increase stress hormones in some species and may cause whales and dolphins to veer off away from these Bahamian waters. "These are huge implications," she added.
"So for them to turn around and say they agree on the possible environmental impact from drilling, they don't realize half of the problem is the seismic testing."
Neil McKinney, the president of the Bahamas National Trust, agreed there are concerns regarding seismic testing, but said more information needs to be gathered to know if it truly has any environmental implications. "I don't know if any of us would have any expertise in terms of seismic waves or how you read them," he said.
The main concern, he said, would be that the data is made public and the people have a clear idea of what the government plan is going forward. In other words, people should be aware of what's included in the upcoming EIA.
"Throw it open for public discussion," he said.
"People who have something to say will have a forum to present their views. The people need to have an idea of what is going on and what the governments plan is.
Enough is enough. Once again the New Providence landfill is on fire and Bahamians continue to suffer the ill-effects of poor management to safeguard our health. The prevalence of spills, leaks, fires or other incidents across the archipelago warrant immediate attention by government to implement regulations and enforce accountability. And the government especially should seek to live up to the standards set out in law.
Since the Environmental Health Services Act was enacted in 1987 few of the recommended regulations have been properly implemented, much to the detriment of the Bahamian people. Regulations for the collection and disposal of waste only came to fruition in 2004. In fact, the act explicitly recommends measures for the prevention and control of pollution of the air, contaminated land and water. While we can praise such forethought, successive efforts to enact final environmental legislation continue to fail.
The Planning and Subdivision Act 2010 may be considered a small victory for the natural environment with its attempt to promote sustainable development through planning policy. On the positive side, it briefly outlines the requisites for an environmental impact assessment or statement, but it hardly satisfies the need for more stringent controls to prevent and hold accountable the release of harmful substances into the environment. Surprisingly, the Department of Environmental Health Services does support an Environmental Monitoring and Risk Assessment Division; yet its absence from public discourse provides little assurance.
The Bahamian people are justified in their outcry over the lingering dump fires. The government's request for nearby residents to keep doors and windows closed is not a long-term solution. Even more so, the public ought to know the extent of adverse impairment to ambient air quality. We would be naive to assume that all garbage in the New Providence landfill is adequately sorted, eliminating the presence of potentially hazardous substances.
But dangers to human health and the environment also lurk within the land. Contamination of land, particularly below the surface, is difficult to detect and when discovered it is prohibitively expensive to remediate. Earlier this year, an underground gasoline leak was discovered at a Robinson Road gas station. Residents with water wells were right to voice concern over the lack of information provided about the leak. The Ministry of the Environment and Housing engaged a Canadian firm, SENES Consultants Limited, to investigate and submit a report to the government, a report not likely to be disclosed to the public.
Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett, in response to the gas station leak, noted that the government is looking to impose stiffer penalties for environment-based offenses. Such a practice may enhance vigilance and hold accountable private businesses, but what about the potential adverse impacts from government-owned entities such as BEC and the landfills? BEC admits lagging behind on maintenance and using Bunker C, a known dirty fuel. Can the government assure residents that smoke stack emissions meet international air quality standards? What about car and bus emissions, or even cruise ship emissions while they are downtown?
As an active participant in numerous United Nations environmental conventions, The Bahamas cannot feign ignorance over the cumulative hazards to human health and the environment. The expansion of environmental education through community programs by the Bahamas National Trust and Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation is building awareness. Exerting greater control over the accountability for harmful releases into the environment would surely benefit the Bahamian people. International standards from recognized entities such as ASTM International exist to identify recognized environmental conditions and determine steps for containment and removal.
Bahamians should expect more from their government regarding the safeguard of human health and the environment. The government has the blueprint and the knowledge, it simply needs greater pressure from the people to act.
One of the Bahamas National Trust's (BNT) international partners, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), recently published an exciting new booklet, "Guide to the Science of Marine Protected Areas in The Bahamas".
"The reports generated by scientists on their many expeditions to The Bahamas are mostly too technical and science-heavy to be of use to decision makers and educators," said Eric Carey, BNT executive director.
"This guide is a useful tool for breaking down the science into useful information that can be applied to conservation and education by both decision makers and educators. The BNT is pleased to see its production and hopes it will be an encouragement to other scientists to produce similar publications to bring their science back to Bahamians."
The booklet, which was written and designed with the Bahamian public in mind, was written after more than a decade of research and outreach. It helps to break down technical research by using colorful summaries and highlighting planned marine protected areas (MPAs).
"The Bahamas has led the way in marine conservation in the region and is also an important setting for scientific research about conservation," said Dan Brumbaugh, senior conservation scientist, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History.
"As such, this booklet serves as a 'thank you' to the Bahamian public from several research communities."
The BNT, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the American Museum of Natural History met with the Minister of the Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett, the Undersecretary in the Ministry of the Environment and Housing David Cates and Director of the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology (BEST) Commission Philip Weech, to officially present them with copies of the booklet.
In addition the environmental groups also presented copies of the guide to the Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government V. Alfred Gray, and the Director of the Department of Marine Resources Michael Braynen.
The BNT will now send additional copies to other members of the Cabinet, and plans to distribute hard copies to other parts of government, local NGOs and the educational sector.
Moreover, the booklet is available for download via the link http://www.amnh.org/our-research/center-for-biodiversity-conservation/publications/for-policymakers/guide-to-the-science-of-marine-protected-areas-in-the-bahamas.
It will also be shared on the BNT website and social media pages to encourage further distribution and use.
Eleanor Phillips, program director, North Caribbean Program at The Nature Conservancy, who was a part of the delegation presentation commented, "The Nature Conservancy congratulates the AMNH for producing a publication that is appropriate for all ages. We are pleased to support the distribution of this publication, as the guide provides a user friendly and pragmatic approach to understanding the science of MPAs. It is a great resource for outreach and for generating further community support for expanding the national marine protected area network."
Four-year-old fine art photographer Joshua Marshall just hit newsstands in the Winter 2013 edition of Profiles 98 magazine.
Joshua is featured as a contributing photographer. His work shows artists participating in "Kingdom Come", the 6th National Exhibition (NE6) of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB).
Joshua's mother Candis Marshall, who was featured in the exhibition, recalled Joshua's fascination with many of the pieces, particularly the installations and how they came together.
Joshua's development in photography stemmed from a therapy his mother used when he was two years old.
As a toddler, he had been a brain box with very wide interests but he was also diagnosed with epilepsy.
Joshua experienced a major seizure that affected his speech and coordination and his ability to communicate. Though his mind was still processing at the same rate, he could not convey his thoughts and needs the way he had become accustomed.
It was through photography that Candis found a way for her son to communicate.
With his camera, Joshua began taking photographs of what he wanted to say and after a while, learned how to explain the photograph and what he wanted to convey.
This was just the beginning of an amazing journey that led to Joshua being noticed by artist Antonius Roberts and the editor of Profiles 98 magazine.
"The editor of Profiles 98, Tercena Carey, has an unquenchable desire to ensure that every Bahamian artist or designer that is willing to hone their craft and is committed to truly representing The Bahamas globally gets an opportunity to do just that with some of the world's most well known individuals and entities as their captive audience," Candis said.
"She has had many opportunities to meet with Joshua and view his work privately and at our recent exhibition (at Hillside House in January). She was so impressed with his ability, mostly because of his age but also because of his eye for detail. [So] she decided to give him a chance to showcase his work in the Winter 2013 issue of Profiles 98."
Profiles 98 is distributed throughout The Bahamas as well as in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Guyana, Antigua, Bermuda and Haiti. It also distributed at fashion events (most recently at New York Fashion Week), spas and hotels in the Caribbean and the U.S.
So far, Joshua's work has been featured at the Bahamas National Trust Art and Wine Festival and Antonius Roberts' Studio and Gallery at Hillside House, in addition to the magazine.
He has also sold three posters and three original fine art prints - two of which are on display at AFS Insurance Brokers, Carmichael Road.
His mother is currently writing a book about him called "I Am Peter Parker", stemming from Joshua's fascination with Spiderman's alias, Peter Parker, the photographer with superhuman abilities.
On Saturday, October 29, the Bahamas National Trust will open its gates for the 21st Annual Wine and Art Festival. The annual festival features over 50 talented artists, a selection of over 50 wines from Bristol Wines and Spirits and a new feature this year, a wine and food pairing area sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism's Culinary Tourism Division.
BNT members will get a special preview of the art and a chance to bid on unique marine-themed silent auction items at the Wishing Fish Auction on Friday evening, October 28. This special evening for BNT members is sponsored by Gourmet Market and Food Art By Cacique and Bristol Wines and Spirits.
"We are extremely grateful to our sponsors," says Eric Carey, BNT executive director. "Their support allows us to show our appreciation for our members at this special evening. The Wishing Fish Auction provides artists with the opportunity to design and decorate wooden fish in their own unique style. All proceeds from the auction will be used in support of the BNT's marine conservation initiatives."
"The Wine and Art Festival provides Bristol Wines and Spirits with a great opportunity to introduce the public to new wines that we will be offering this holiday season," comments Rusty Scates, wine manager for Bristol Wines and Spirits.
Patrons attending the festival this year will have an opportunity to taste Asti Winery's Cellar's range of eight wines with the Chardonnay and Zinfindel being featured, Pine and Post Wines from Washington State featuring a Reisling and Merlot and Flip Flop Wines from California offering their Chardonnay and Carbernet Sauvignon.
One of the special features of the Wine and Art Festival is special guests from the participating wineries. This year Julian Inarra from the Trivento
Winery in Argentina will be on hand to discuss the wines produced by his winery.
A new feature at this year's Wine and Art Festival will be a food and wine pairing demonstration sponsored by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism's Culinary Tourism Division. Featuring three of the finest chefs in The Bahamas who are all members of the Bahamas Culinary Association, the area will help you learn what wine should be served with what dish.
Jamal Small, Team Captain of the National Culinary Team 2011 and Private Chef in the Exuma Cays, will feature a Cassava Gnocchi with roasted root vegetables in a fennel cream sauce. Emmanuel Gibson, National Culinary Team from the One & Only Ocean Club, will demonstrate a fish dish - plantain-crusted grouper. Alexandra Maillis Lynch of Alexandra's Catering and August Moon will guide attendees through the process of roasting a pig in plantain leaf. Local produce will be featured in each recipe in conjunction with BAIC, and all ingredients will be locally grown, inclusive of the grouper and the pig.
A number of well-known caterers and restaurants will be providing food throughout the day, such as Gourmet Markets and Food Art by Cacique, August Moon Café, Konfetti Kreations, Glorious Foods, Citrus Catering and a special booth featuring Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream.
"We are once again thrilled to have many outstanding artists participating in the Festival," says Lynn Gape, deputy executive director of the BNT.
New artists participating this year are Judith Papillon, Tori Hermann, Kandice Eldon, Candis Marshall, Morgan McKinney, and Shelby Knowles.
We also have a large contingent from Abaco traveling to be with us this year," says Gape. "We are very happy to have Kim Rody, Jo-ann and Peter Bradley, Marjolein Scott, Jeep Beyers and Bob Zwickel joining us again this year."
Annual favorites will also be participating and patrons will have a chance to visit with Thierry Lamare, Jonathon Bethel, Toby Lunn, John Paul, Trevor Tucker, Marco Mullings, Nicole Angelica, Malcolm Rae, Kim Smith, Tiffany Barrett, Peter Otim Angole and Imogene Walkine.
According to Lynn Gape, the festival began 21 years ago with just 20 artists and each year it has grown. Today, the festival features over 50 artists and is a great place to see a variety of artistic styles. Many media are represented and not surprisingly the Bahamian environment is the subject of many of the paintings.
The BNT's Wine and Art Festival is a great event to learn about wine and view wonderful art, so be sure to attend this very special event on Saturday, October 29, 12 noon to 6 p.m. at The Retreat on Village Road. BNT members pay $15 and the general public $20. All proceeds support the national park system of The Bahamas.
Contact Lynn Gape at email@example.com or 393-1317 for more information.
Bahamas National Trust (BNT) park wardens joined an international research team recently to learn more about the rare and endangered Bahamian rock iguana. BNT park wardens Shenica Campbell, the new park warden in Nassau and Ellsworth Weir, Grand Bahama deputy park warden, participated in the research expedition organized by the Shedd Aquarium for a week-long research expedition in the Exuma Cays.
The purpose of the trip was to assess the health of the iguana populations on the cays, to record information and to insert pit tags into the skin of the iguanas that weren't already being studied. The research project took body measurements and blood samples from the iguanas, identified and recorded the sex of the iguanas, removed ticks and recorded injuries, and if the iguana had been captured before, compared the current health of the iguana to the information previously recorded.
"I learned about the importance of conservation as it relates to the endangered Bahamian rock iguana," said Ellsworth Weir, Grand Bahama deputy park Warden. "Feeding them takes them away from their natural food cycle and also causes problems for the iguana, especially when that food is thrown into the sand. It is also dangerous to allow people to hand feed them since a red fingernail can be mistaken for food."
Rock iguanas in The Bahamas are protected by the Wild Animals Protection Act, as they are currently listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list as "rare". Additionally, the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) lists the rock iguana as near extinction or very endangered. As a result, the trade of iguanas across nations is prohibited. Subspecies of the Bahamian rock iguana are found on Andros, San Salvador, Acklins, Mayaguana and in the Exuma Cays.
"Once again we had a very successful expedition because of everyone's efforts. We captured and processed a total of 205 iguanas. Moreover, thanks to the hard work of the team, we observed and processed the most iguanas on Pasture Cay since 2006," said Chuck Knapp, facilitator of the research trip.
The trip started in Georgetown, Exuma aboard the research vessel R/V Coral Reef II and sailed to numerous cays until it returned to Nassau. In addition to the iguana study, the BNT team also assisted the Island Conservation Organization with the eradication of the invasive rats on some of the cays.
This research trip has taken place every year since the late 1970s, rotating between the Exumas and Andros. This year's research team included members of Shedd's staff, interested scientists and BNT staff members.
"The intent of the park wardens attending the research trip was for us to participate and learn about the research through hands on training," said Weir. "By participating in the research, we were able to play a greater part in learning about the iguanas and we are now able to educate others about the great importance of this work."
Next year's trip will visit Andros and both the BNT and the Shedd Aquarium hope the success of this year will be matched on next year's research trip. Weir concluded, "We need to educate more people about this, as a tagged iguana can be monitored throughout its life and population growth can be gauged through new captures."
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- For the month of February in the garden atmosphere of the Bahamas National Trust in Freeport, the members of the Grand Bahama Artists Association have assembled an array of artistic renderings of faces, flowers, fanciful abstractions, landscapes, portraits, and seascapes ... all for the love of art.
Local and international artists bring their unique perspective to art in an eclectic selection of oil, wood, fiber, watercolours, paper, and bead artistry ... the visual arts have expand on Grand Bahama.
Everyone is invited to the opening reception on Thursday, February 7th, at 7 pm. An evening which gives the opportunity for the community to mix and mingle with the artists, feel the artistic buzz that is happening on Grand Bahama Island and to learn some tricks of the artist's trade.
Come join in with others for an evening of art and conversation at the Glory Banks Gallery, Rand Nature Centre, East Settlers Way. The exhibition continues until February 28th.